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Natural Gas Benefits

How to Convert Your Home to Natural Gas

Natural gas is the most popular fuel in the United States. Around 56 percent of US households are heated by natural gas. Thinking about converting your home? It’s not as strenuous as it sounds. We’ve broken the process down to five steps. The good news is, most of these steps are done by professionals, all you have to do is make the decision to convert and hire a reliable contractor.

Follow this step by step guide to converting your home to natural gas:

  1. Check for gas availability in your area: You can do this by going online or calling your gas company. Ask every question you can think of. Make sure you ask if installation of the service line is free, because it usually is. Don’t make any assumptions about this process; it’s a big project and you’re going to want to know everything that’s going to happen to your home.
  2. Inquire about options and offers: Talk to your heating contractor about equipment options and special offers. Ask about a furnace for heat and a boiler for hot water. These appliances are generally $1,500 to $3,000; which is a bargain compared to oil systems, which could cost up to $8,000.
  3. Map it out: Your utility company will come map out your property to find the optimal route for the new gas service. They will identify your phone, sewer, water and electrical lines. In addition, you should mark where any underground sprinklers, septic and oil tanks are.
  4. Installation of the service line: It’s time for the service line to be installed from the street to your home. Make sure you ask your company what their services include regarding your yard. Most companies will fill in holes they’ve dug; however, they aren’t responsible for lawn care. Find out what they will do once the project is complete.
  5. Equipment Installation: This is one of the very last steps in converting your home to natural gas. All gas equipment (i.e. your furnace) will be installed in your home.

Sometimes there are special permits that you need in order to convert your home. You’re heating contractor/utility company will take care of this for you. They will figure out what needs to be done prior to installing your equipment. If there is gas near your property, installations can take up to four to six weeks, depending on the permit approval process.

You are sure to save money in the long run by switching your home to natural gas. Check out our other blogs for more information about the benefits of natural gas. 

Natural Gas Appliances

Natural gas may seem like an old-school way to fuel your home’s appliances, but we are here to tell you otherwise. Some people choose to run on electric because they think it’s cheaper and more eco-friendly. It is true that electric appliances can be less expensive initially, but it’s actually costing them more in the long run. According to the United States Department of Energy, natural gas costs 68 percent less, so long as you already have gas lines leading to your appliances. You can see how this would save you money as time goes on.

You may be wondering if natural gas is bad for the environment and we can assure the contrary. Natural gas is considered the cleanest fossil fuel; it is efficient, reliable, economic and environmentally friendly. In fact, natural gas air conditioning is becoming more popular because it is eco-friendly and efficient. It cools your home faster than any other form of air conditioning.

On the warmer side of things, natural gas furnaces have been around much longer and have a popular following because they are known to heat your house quicker than the other methods. The American Gas Association found that 56 percent of U.S. households use natural gas heating.

Other natural gas-powered appliances include water heaters, stoves, dryers, fire places and grills. People prefer gas water heaters for constant hot water and they prefer gas stoves for precision cooking. You can always count on a gas appliance in your home.

With natural gas fueled appliances comes great responsibility. Make sure you are keeping your home safe by having your appliances checked regularly. Keep combustible items away from gas appliances to prevent fires and never keep flammable products in the same room or near appliances that produce heat.

 If you have further questions about the safety of your gas appliances, you can contact your gas company or refer to Walton Gas’ other blog posts.

Natural Gas Power Plant Efficiency

Natural gas power plant

Natural gas power plants are a highly efficient form of power plant that is used to generate electricity. They have many advantages over other power plants. 

There are three forms of natural gas power plants. These are steam generation, simple cycle and combined cycle.

Steam generation power plants use natural gas to heat water and the resulting steam to spin a turbine that generates electricity. They are about 35% efficient in converting heat to electricity.

Simple cycle power plants burn natural gas and use the byproducts to rotate the turbine. They are useful during periods of high demand for electricity because they can be started up quickly, and are about 35-40% efficient.

Combined cycle power plants use both simple cycle turbines and a heat recovery steam generator. The heat recovery steam generator makes use of waste heat to maximize the efficiency of the process. Combined cycle power plants are approximately 60% efficient.

Natural gas simple cycle and combined cycle power plants are considerably more efficient than solid fuel power plants. Coal power plants rarely exceed 40% efficiency, and even the most advanced plants do not exceed 50%. Nuclear power plants operate at less than 35% efficiency.

Natural gas power plants do produce carbon dioxide, but they are far more environmentally friendly than solid fuel power plants. Air pollution from coal power plants is responsible for approximately 13,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year. Nuclear power plants produce radioactive waste that has catastrophic consequences if it escapes containment, and must be stored securely for thousands of years.

Natural gas power plants can also be built much more swiftly than solid fuel power plants. Depending on the form of plant, they take between 18 and 36 months to build. The comparable construction time for solid fuel plants, however, is approximately 72 months.

Natural Gas and Electricity

Electrical technician

Natural gas is the most widely used fuel for electricity generation in the United States; it is used to generate approximately 25% of the electricity consumed in the country. In contrast to other solid fuels used to generate electricity, natural gas is relatively clean burning.

While historically the majority of electricity generation using natural gas has taken place in large, capital-intensive facilities, in recent years there has been a trend toward distributed generation. This refers to local generation on a smaller scale in residential, industrial and commercial areas of demand.

There are three forms of natural gas power plants that are used to generate electricity.

Simple cycle plants burn natural gas, which converts the gas into high-pressure gaseous by-products that are used to turn the turbine, thus generating electricity. Simple cycle plants can be started up at short notice, so they are used extensively to ramp up production during periods of peak demand. However, they are only about 35% efficient in converting heat to electricity. For this reason, simple cycle plants are mostly used to accommodate periods of peak demand.

Combined cycle plants work in the same way as simple cycle plants, but they also make use of a heat recovery steam generator to recover more of the heat generated. Combined cycle plants are 55-60% efficient.

Steam powered plants heat water using natural gas, and the steam drives a turbine that generates electricity. This is similar to the way in which coal power plants and nuclear power plants work. Steam powered plants are approximately 35-40% efficient.

For the purposes of comparison, coal power plants are typically about 40% efficient. There have been some advancements in coal power plant technology, but even the most advanced models do not exceed 50% efficiency. Nuclear power plants are only approximately 33% efficient. Given that the majority of electricity produced by natural gas in the U.S. is generated in combined cycle plants, on average it is much more efficient than these alternatives.

Propane vs. Natural Gas

Natural gas stove burning

The type of fuel you use in your home or your vehicle can make a difference to your energy costs. In cities, most residences are limited to using natural gas because of existing infrastructure. But in rural areas, a choice is often available when it comes to home use.

Natural gas is actually a composite of several other gases, including propane in its raw state, but mostly consisting of methane. Propane sold to users is always in liquid form, and natural gas can be stored in several different forms, including liquefied natural gas. 

Natural gas is usually piped in via underground utility lines, while propane is stored in an underground tank in your yard. Local utility rates will determine which option is cheaper, but understanding the differences in how the two gases are measured can help with the evaluation.

Prices for natural gas are usually listed per cubic foot, while propane is listed in price per gallon. The conversion between the two measurements is cumbersome, but most natural gas companies have calculators on their websites to make the conversion.

Natural gas, while it contains less energy per cubic foot than propane, is cheaper by volume and more readily available, so it will typically work out to be the cheaper option. Propane is also more susceptible to price spikes. 

But the fuel cost isn't the only factor. Some appliances will only work with one type of fuel, and would need to be adapted or completely replaced to work with the other fuel. And if a house is already set up for propane, converting to natural gas comes with several one-time costs.

Both propane and natural gas are considered environmentally friendly alternative fuels because they do not release emissions into the atmosphere during burning.

Gas vs Electric Fireplace

Gas fireplace

Choosing a fireplace is a huge decision. Sometimes you have no choice in the matter, because of what is included in the home you’ve purchased. But when you have the opportunity to choose between a gas fireplace and an electric fireplace, you are undoubtedly going to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each one before making your final decision.

Electric fireplaces have become popular in recent years. The convenience of being able to go to the store and return home with a fireplace in a box is a hard temptation to resist. They are essentially a simulation of an actual fire-burning fireplace, functioning more as an elaborate space heater.

These type of fireplaces are most popular with home owners who have children or pets, as it reduces the risk of either coming close to being burned by an actual flame.

Gas fireplaces are the real deal. These are the type of fireplaces that you think of when people talk about curling up next to an open fire with a good book or a cup of hot cocoa. Ceramic logs are used to hide the burner and spread the fire, achieving the classic look of a real wood fire.

One of the knocks against gas fireplaces is that they require a chimney. Gas fireplaces burn natural or propane, producing a small of carbon monoxide that must be vented out. But the addition of a gas fireplace can also add value to your home, should you decide to sell later on down the road.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. Your best course of action is to decide which one best fits your own personal living situation. You should also consider your personal finances, as both require very different financial commitments with regard to the initial costs and upkeep.

Heating Oil vs. Natural Gas

Natural gas stove

The debate between heating oil and natural gas has been waged for decades now, with impassioned arguments on both sides, each one certain that their choice is better than the other.

Often, your biggest concern is the total cost. Natural gas prices are determined at the beginning of the month, and do not change until the next. Their pricing swings appear much more stable than in comparison to heating oil costs. On the flip side, heating oil prices change twice daily, so the price could even change between your phone call and when your order is processed.

Heating oil is already considered by some experts to be a very expensive way to heat your home, so fluctuating prices is not going to inspire much confidence with homeowners.

In terms of performance, you know what you’re getting from both options. Heating oil and natural gas are both designed to keep your home warm, and both accomplish that goal. But what about convenience and reliability? Natural gas is pipelined into your home, so you’re never short on supply whenever you need it. Heating oil, on the other hand, is delivered via truck. If that truck is not able to deliver your home for whatever reason, you have no alternative.

It is difficult to declare one option as better or superior to the other without being subjective. It is important to research both and then find the alternative the best fits your own personal information. Something else to keep in mind is that there are programs available to help you cover the installation cost of a natural gas heating system.

Keeping your home warm is important. So be sure that you consider the pros and cons of both options before committing yourself to either one. The differences between the two could be significant.

Advantages of a Gas Fireplace

cuddling by the fire place

When the freezing temperatures of winter descend upon your home, being able to fire up the fireplace can be a blessing. Whether you’re curling up next to the fire with a good book or simply enjoying the comforting warmth of the flames, there is nothing quite like a fireplace in your own home.

But is your fireplace a natural gas burning fireplace? Natural gas fireplaces cost less to run, and are better for the environment and your home.

Not yet sold on the benefits of a natural gas fireplace? Allow us to provide you a few of the advantages that are afforded to owners of gas burning fireplaces.

  1. Logs are not required, so the supply of heat is uninterrupted.
  2. Forget about buying or chopping firewood.
  3. Without logs, there are no ashes to clean up or sparks from the fire.
  4. Save up to 25% or more on your energy bill.
  5. Turn your gas fireplace on or off with the simple flick of a switch.
  6. There are no harmful fumes or particles being released into the air.
  7. Gas fireplaces use a venting system, so chimneys are not required.
  8. Wood burning fireplaces have been banned in certain states.
  9. Installation of a natural gas fireplace is cheaper and often easier than the alternative.
  10. Best of all, natural gas fireplaces are the stylish choice! They can add value to your home and even provide a visual boost, as well.

The list of benefits goes on and on! Hopefully these will help make your decision between a gas or wood burning fireplace that much easier. A natural gas fireplace is an attractive addition to your home, and is even a safer option for children and pets.

In the midst of cold winter months, this could be just what your home needs right now!

Gas vs. Electric Stove

Natural gas burning blue and yellow

Once you are a homeowner, you might find yourself faced with the choice between a gas stove and an electric stove. More often than not, you’ll simply go with what has already been installed in the kitchen. But before you settle on one or the other, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each one.

Ask the opinion of a professional cook and they’ll likely endorse the versatility of gas stove tops, which allow them to quickly and accurately adjust the level of heat while cooking. Gas stove tops provide more even heat for cooking, and are generally able to change temperature more rapidly. The flame from electric stove tops also heats the bottom and sides of the pans, allowing for faster cooking of your food.

On top of that, natural gas is an abundant resource that is relatively inexpensive.

With that said, purchasing and installing a gas stove can often be more expensive than an electric stove. You also run the risk of a potential gas leak if you’re not careful.

Electric stoves are the more common choice in modern homes, in large part because of the less expensive purchase price and ease of installation. In addition to being easier to clean, electric stoves are more stable for pots, also providing additional counter space when not in use. Additional fans and grillers are among the additional functions you might find on an electric stove top.

But electric stoves are not without their drawbacks. They’re typically slower to cool when a burner is turned down or off, and are inoperable in the event of a power outage.

Ultimately, your choice comes down to which option is more in tune with your style of cooking, and how much of a financial investment you’re willing to make when assembling your perfect kitchen.

Spring Energy Saving Tips

Open window on a sunny day

Spring cleaning is about to commence and energy saving opportunities will unveil themselves in the process. Washing windows, stowing away winter clothes and blankets and even updating home décor can be contributing factors to saving on an energy bill. Spring cleaning is a great opportunity to pull the house together and get it ready for a change in seasons and a change in budget.

Acknowledging the tedious flaws that the winter reaped upon your home over the past three months can really pay off. The task of painting the shutters and trim, washing the windows and planting flowers around your foundation are a good time for homeowners to take notice of any heat-seeping cracks. These will require caulk to preserve the insulation of the structure which provides more control over comfort in temperature of the home.

Also in the early days of spring, we begin to prep our winter clothes and bedding for storage. Allowing for comfort for all who dwell in your home will help to resist the urge to crank the AC unit for some relief. Taking advantage of lighter clothing and blankets is an unexpected yet sensible way to relieve the heat of a high energy bill.

Learning how to utilize the changing daylight and nighttime temperatures will help find that comfort-zone. Updating home décor, especially drapes and shades, can help moderate the amount of direct sunlight getting in. If you’re fortunate enough to have a cooler evening, the open windows will help cool the house for the day ahead. Capturing the cold air and keeping out the warm sun is a definite way to keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature for your budget.

With a few quick fixes, there are sure ways to find relief from a soaring energy bill. It’s pleasant to know that spring cleaning comes with the perks of savings.